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Reflowering By Sundara Ramaswamy Essays

Updated: Sat, Jul 13 2013. 10 45 AM IST

Sukanya said that Sridaran often mentioned the word ‘modern’. What an attractive word! Dreams and visions swirled around it. ‘However hard we try and think, our brains won’t catch the sense of it exactly, Ramani. We must go and live in London to understand what it means,’ said Sukanya.

Children, Women, Men

Sundara Ramaswamy died in 2005, leaving behind him a body of work that included three novels, several short stories, some poems (written under the pen name “Pasuvayya”) and translations into Tamil of the work of Malayalam writer Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. He also published and edited the Tamil literary journal Kalachuvadu that has carried the works of new and established writers over the years.

Su Raa, as he is popularly known, was greatly influenced by the work of the writer Pudhumaipithan (whose collected works the Kalachuvadu Trust edited and published in 2000). His early stories, such as Heifer and Sita Brand Soapnut Powder, had the kind of direct language and sharp observations about people and society that Pudhumaipithan and other progressive writers of the early 20th century thought necessary to resuscitate Tamil literature from its excessive formality.

Children, Women, Men: By Sundara Ramaswamy, Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom, Penguin Books India, 552 pages, Rs 499

In time, Su Raa distanced himself from the writers of the Left and began to publish in some of the many little magazines that had sprung up in Tamil Nadu. The two books under review here give the reader a flavour of the range of Su Raa’s work: Waves is a selection of his stories and Children, Women, Men is his last published novel (1998).

Su Raa’s stories were written in two distinct phases: pre-1966 and after 1973. In her “Introduction”, Lakshmi Holmström, who has translated some of these stories, mentions this gap of six years in Su Raa’s story writing, but does not say why he wrote no stories in these years, what other writing those years were occupied with, and why his stories are so remarkably different in the years after 1973.

In the absence of biographical context, it is up to the reader to plunge into the stories and experience them without the filter of literary exposition. This is not at all a bad thing: The difference in style and content between stories such as Heifer, Sita Brand Soapnut Powder and Prasadam on the one hand and Essences, The Hollow and Waves on the other, is self-evident. The earlier stories are sharply delineated studies of character and social situations, written with a characteristic humour and fondness for the people they represent. The later stories, on the other hand, are more surreal, allusive and dreamlike. They often end abruptly and far away from where they seemed to be headed. These stories are narratives of states of mind that one comprehends instantly and entirely but has to later reach to understand.

In Children, Women, Men, several characters experience a sense of unease and a loss of identity in the rapidly changing social milieu of pre-independence Kottayam. SRS, the patriarch of the main family in the novel, refuses to attend the death anniversary—the thivasam—of his father, seeing it as meaningless ritual. Other characters rebel in their own particular ways: Chellappa urges the widowed Anandam to go away with him; Sridaran wants to marry Valli, without regard to caste or generational taboos; Savitri is corrosively honest in her periods of “mental illness”; Balu, SRS’ son, is unable to rebel and develops a kind of fear that is best described by the German word angst.

Valli looks at her face in a cracked mirror and at once the sense of divided self that everyone experiences in their own ways is made literal. Such a dislocation is not just symbolic but also linguistic. Virudan Sankunni, the postman, says, “Once you learnt English, you never understood other people’s misfortunes.” Balu, hiding in the storeroom, later watches Valli and Ramani return from their convent school and thinks, “They were laughing English laughter.”

Waves: By Sundara Ramaswamy, Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom and Gomathi Narayanan, 200 pages, Rs 299

None of these characters need to live in London to experience what modernity brings in its wake: As in post-World War I Europe, so in Travancore state in 1937-39.

The narrator of the short story Crows wants desperately to belong to the world of crows: “Whenever I told the older crows, ‘I am a poet as well,’ they looked at me with a little smile. It seemed to me that they said, ‘That is really not very important to us.’ It struck me as perfectly fair that as long as I took no notice of the poetry of their world, they were at liberty to ignore the poetry of mine.”

Bridging the language barrier often seems as arduous a task as understanding another species without the benefit of a common language or mode of thought. Su Raa was trilingual: In addition to English, he read and spoke Malayalam with ease and learnt to read and write Tamil when he was young (though as a Tamil Brahmin he always spoke it). In his second novel, JJ: Some Jottings (published by Crea-A, in 1981 and translated by A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Katha, 2004), Su Raa uses the life of a fictional writer, JJ, to write a postmodern satire of Tamil and Malayalam literary movements and debates. A character in JJ says: “We speak of Kafka. Of Simone de Beauvoir. Of Borges. But we do not know of Kuttikrishna Marar. We do not know of Gopalakrishna Adiga. How’s that?”

It is a familiar complaint and not an unjustified one—it is true that a generation that is most comfortable speaking English, though it has not completely lost its ability to speak or write another Indian language, tends to be more familiar with writers from the West than writers of other Indian languages. Books such as Waves and Children, Women, Men help tilt the scale towards a literature that ought to be more familiar than it is. Perhaps the riches these translations promise can even be an inducement to readers to begin reading in languages other than English.

Sridala Swami is a Hyderabad-based poet.


☆ Bon Voyage ☆ Mercy and Justice (from 'The Merchant of Venice') ☆ The Farmer (Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai) ☆ The Helping Hand (E.M. Forster) ☆ The Road to Success ☆ Vision for the Nation (from 'India 2020') ☆ Essay Corner - Unit 1 to 6 ☆ POEM ☆ Off to Outer Space Tomorrow Morning ☆ Sonnet No: 116 ☆ The Solitary Reaper ☆ Is Life, But a Dream? ☆ Be the Best ☆ O Captain! My Captain! ☆ Essay Corner - Unit 1 to 6
Paper - I Content
Section - A Vocabulary - Lexical Competencies : 30 Marks
☆ Synonyms ☆ Antonyms ☆ Using Plural forms of words ☆ Using Idiomsin Sentences ☆ Abbreviations/Acronyms ☆ Homophones ☆ Using compound words in sentences ☆ Blending the words ☆ Syllabification ☆ Parts of Speech ☆ Use of American/British English ☆ Prefix and Suffix ☆ Forming Compound Words ☆ Using Phrasal verbs in sentences ☆ Using Clipped words in sentences
Section - B Grammatical Competencies : 20 Marks
☆ Using a Modal Verb ☆ Using the verb in the suitable form ☆ Using the correct tense form of the verb ☆ Relative Pronoun ☆ Using a phrase for filling in a sentence ☆ Using a Semi-modal verb ☆ Sentence Pattern ☆ Kind of Passive Voice ☆ Using a Link Word ☆ Reporting a Dialogue ☆ Transformation of sentence using starters ☆ Transformation of Simple/Compound/Complex sentences ☆ Change into a simple sentence ☆ Combing of sentences using Subordinating Conjunctions
Section - C Reading Competencies : 15 Marks
☆ Identifying the fields ☆ General Comprehension
☆ Prose - Paragraph ☆ Prose - Essay
☆ Poem - Comprehension ☆ Poem - Literary Appreciation ☆ Poem - E.R.C ☆ Poem -.Paragraph
☆ Holiday (Rabindranath Tagore ☆ The Necklace (GUY de Maupassant ☆ The Gift of the Magi (O.Henry) ☆ Reflowering (Sundara Ramaswamy) ☆ Every Living thing (James Herriot) ☆ Kaanchanai (Pudumaippittan)
PAPER - II Content
☆ Rearranging sentences in Logical Sequence ☆ Choosing the correct option ☆ Comprehension (from Textbook Lesson) ☆ Essay (Developing Hints from Textbook Lesson)
☆ Reference Skills ☆ Spotting the errors and Correcting
☆ Summary Writing ☆ Responding to Advertisement (Letter Writing)
☆ Non-Lexical Fillers ☆ Road-Map Direction
☆ Matching the Proverbs with Meaning ☆ Matching the Slogans with Products '
☆ General Essay
☆ Tamil Translation of Supplementary Reader Unit 1 to 6

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Book Specifications

AuthorK.V. Annad M.A M.Ed M.phil
Category11th standard
PublisherSura Books Pvt. Ltd
Publish Date2017-18
ISBN-13 Number9788184499711
ISBN-10 Number818449971X
EditionLatest Edition
Number of Pages384 Page(s)
Class11th Standard Guide
BoardTamilnadu State Board Syllabus
Height1 (cms)
Width18 (cms)
Length24 (cms)
Weight300 (gms)
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